Index to my “Schnarch” Posts

January 29, 2008

This is an index to the posts I’ve written on my treatment of David Schnarch’s book Passionate Marriage. These are scattered between two blogs, so I figured I would bundle them up neatly for those looking for information. While they are in order, I didn’t always expand on every chapter but I tried to keep the commentary fairly close.

There are other posts in the works extending on what I’m experiencing and learning that may or may not be added here but I’ll try to keep them in a “Schnarch” category.

Enjoy!

1. Chapter 1

2. chapt. 2 – Differentiation

3. Emotional Gridlock

4. Wanting to Want

5. Hugging until Relaxed

6. Kissing and Foreplay

7. Ch. 9 – Using your mind

8. Ch. 10 – Fucking

9. Ch. 11 – Two Choice Dilemma and the Mercy Fuck

10. Ch. 12 – Tools for getting through it

11. Ch. 13 – Critical Mass

12. Our own breakthrough

13. Ch. 14 – Spirituality and the Ultimate Differentiation


Inching Forward

January 27, 2008

After our talk on Wednesday night, it was all I could do to hold to the progress we’ve already made.  I suspected that there might be a rebound effect as I began looking for the sex to happen.  (Thanks Emily for suggesting I NOT think about it thus ensuring that I think about it more!;-)  But we’ve been so long without it, getting started again would be difficult especially since Arwyn and I had resolved not to have bad sex.  To answer one question on FTN’s little meme, I’m at a point where no sex is better than bad sex, but I would qualify that with the idea that if Arwyn is really trying I would really try, too. 

 

So the last few nights have been tense for me, as I held on and tried to respect the boundaries.  But I did push them a bit.  We’ve spent some time, especially in the mornings holding each other, kissing and generally being affectionate.

 

This morning we were hugging and kissing when Arwyn said, “I need to use the bathroom.”  This usually means that’s it.  And sure enough she did turn on the shower, but she also returned for more hugging and kissing.  That was new.  Then she said she needed to take a shower.  I decided to just see where we were.

 

“Want some company?”

 

She could have declined and I would have been okay with that.  But she shut our door and said “Okay!”  So in we went. 

 

This was slightly erotic but it was more intimate than anything.  She didn’t venture much below my waist but did allow my hand to go there a bit when I was my turn to soap her up.  There’s nothing quite like two soapy bodies in a hot, steamy shower.

 

I could tell Arwyn was really giving it a go to hold on to herself as my hands traveled around her body.  She really did a good job at keeping her own defensiveness in check and I didn’t get overly aggressive with things.  It was just a good way for each of us to get re-acquainted with the other’s naked body and it was a significant developmental step.

 

For my part, I stayed in my “human mind” rather than descending into my reptilian self.  What that means in a practical sense was that I didn’t ever get a real erection.  I had my own anxieties to manage and that took a lot of mental effort.  Arwyn spent zero time stimulating me, so I suppose that made things easier or softer depending on how you look at it. It was just a very nice time washing each other and hugging and kissing and being close to each other while tending to one another.  To me, this is a big part of what intimacy really and truly looks like.  It is tending to each other with gentleness and generosity while allowing ourselves to be tended to. 

 

A big obstacle to intimacy is shame.  It started all the way back in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve discovered they were naked.  It was the first manifestation of their sin, which drove them into hiding.  We’ve been dealing with shame ever since then and it always looms large casting a long shadow over our attempts to be intimacy.   Whether it’s our hearts, spirits or bodies there is something scary about nakedness.  This shame has been cultivated and nurtured over the centuries and millennia often by religion in order to better manage the people.  Modesty is one thing, but shame is quite another.  Marriage is the one place where we can really work on overcoming our shame.

 

Like most women, Arwyn has body issues.  It’s difficult for us to be naked for any length of time without her pointing out her flaws.  I don’t say much but just let her talk as I’m unsure whether there is anything I can do or say to reassure her.  In the end, it’s up to her to accept her own body.

 

Still, I think I do need to talk with her to let her know that when I look at her, I am not judging or assessing her at all.  I’m appreciating her.  I simply don’t see the flaws as flaws.  I see her as her; my wife.  Her shame keeps her from enjoying her body and keeps her from allowing me to enjoy her.  Actually, I’m at a point where I can enjoy her for her and that includes any extra pounds or marks or whatever.  I want to embrace whatever she brings with her.

 

D.

 

 

   

 


189.8

January 24, 2008

I haven’t updated my weight in awhile, so I think I’ll do that for a minute. My weight loss efforts actually do figure into things. This morning I was at 189.8 which is about 3 pounds off from my eventual target. Over the holidays, I maxed out at about 196 but fluctuated between there and 192, which my body seems to like. I work on the elliptical and the step mat but not every day or even every other day. Maybe I get 2-3 times a week if I’m lucky simply because demands at work have been quite heavy the past couple of weeks. I did manage to download Stepmania 4.0 CSV which is a very nice looking release and I like many of the new display features. But it has slowed me down and I’ve had to adjust to it.

When I first began losing weight and posting about it, it was largely driven by my need for better health and a changing self-image. I needed to get rid of the pounds because my knees were driving me nuts. Anyone else who struggles know of what I speak. So I did some research, found an exercise that I adore, some foods that I also adore and went for it. The little “Biggest Loser” competition didn’t hurt either. But somewhere towards the end, I mused on these pages; how much weight do I have to lose to get my wife to want me? It’s at that point that Rod Smith chimed in with a comment that I really needed to get Passionate Marriage. I had been following 2amsomewhere’s posts on the subject and was somewhat familiar with Schnarch and his writings from lurking alt.support.marriage. This name would come up on other relationship blogs on occasion also.

In November Rod and I did make efforts to contact each other by telephone. One time I woke him up after he was asleep! He was very nice about it, and told me to call back earlier the day the next day, which I did try but got an answering machine. He left voice messages on my phone as well as by email. I’m okay with all of this because just knowing he was there was sufficient. Plus I got the book and figured after reading it I might have more to talk about afterwards. The point being that I was too busy (and careless) to even make a phone therapy connection but as it turned out his advice was spot-on. He gave me a small shove in the right direction.

The last time I had a major discussion with Arwyn, it was almost like an assault or a guerrilla attack. It was short and a skirmish that left more questions than answers and certainly didn’t do anything to make me feel better about our marriage. It was bad timing all around.

This time, it was not planned at all. I went to the store after work and she and the boys had gone to church. We got home about the same time and she put the boys to be while I got ready for the next day. I was tired and was ready to go to bed. This is highly unusual as she normally goes to bed early and I stay up late, mostly after midnight. She was in already bed when I came in the bedroom. I sat for a minute contemplating whether to turn in or go back to the living room and turn on the computer. I laid down and attempted to snuggle up to her in the inverted position. To my surprise, all I found at the foot of the bed was her legs. Her hands reached down in the dark and moved over my legs and bum and wondered what i was doing. I switched positions, feeling a bit embarrassed but was able to snuggle without her moving off. And then we began to talk.

At first it was about her church, where the senior pastor is taking a leave of absence “to recharge” and another pastor there just left the ministry with no known explanation. More casualties of “church.” I shared with her my evolving views of church. She’s known that my views were under construction, as it were. She thought I was fancying starting my own church as part of a “house church” movement. I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, but I’ve come to realize that conflict is just part of the growing process. Leaving and starting a church would be a futile attempt to escape and avoid that growth; there really is no escape anyway because conflict is inherent in me. And to carry this where I’m going, leaving my marriage for someone else wouldn’t solve my conflicts because the conflicts that I have with Arwyn are conflicts I have with me.

In that sense, it is about me and my own deficiencies. Confronting my own mess has been a major part of this process. Meanwhile, Arwyn has been working on step 4 in her 12-step program for the second time. This step closely mirrors the process that I was going through as I was learning to confront my own issues. We were going through identical steps at identical times. We did discuss this process. Arwyn went through all 12 steps last year, and I knew she was doing it. I waited for step 8 and step 9 to come around. It never did, at least for me. So when she told me she was doing the 12 steps again, I was skeptical that it was doing her any good at all as she was obviously in some deep, deep denial about what she was doing to me.

She admitted that she had “forgotten” to deal with me in those steps, and I corrected her and told her she had most likely simply chosen to avoid it altogether. She admitted to that and we went into a discussion about our avoidance issues and the fact that we were both first class avoiders. One of the major problems is that neither of us was interested in listening to what the other had to say and so we simply avoided the major issues. We agreed that this was likely something we both acquired from our respective backgrounds and that we would need to work in order to overcome that. Much of arwyn’s avoidance stems directly from issues I brought up in that long thread “XH and Me” where most people forgot all about the “me” part and wanted to talk about XH. Fact is, I have many of the same exact issues as I related there. My brain allows me to intellectually out-flank a whole lot of people and I have my own sense of moral rightness that makes others feel small, stupid and wrong. I can effectively use this to keep people from getting too close and intimidate them while beaming with pride when others tell me how great a Sunday school teacher I am or how great and smart I am in general. Smartness is a long way from wisdom, as evidenced by me stupidly asserting my moral and intellectual superiority over my wife.

Nothing says “I love you” like making a person feel small, stupid and wrong.

Keep in mind, this intellectual power was what fueled her initial attraction to me. She came to the young adult Sunday school class I was teaching and really liked my teaching skillz. She was hungry for knowledge and saw me as being a person who had a lot to offer her.

But later, she always felt judged and controlled by me, and gave up arguing with me a long time ago. To wit: I was always “right” and she was always “wrong.” My “rightness” pretty much put us on a collision course with disaster. God was using my marriage to wring that self-righteous pride out of me. I’ve still got plenty of it so there will be more wringing, I’m sure. But avoidance was about her only choice, as she saw it. She felt she was always walking on egg shells around me. Yeah, I see it, now. I really was judging her and found her wanting most of the time. The more she withdrew from me, the more I judged her as being inadequate which pretty much guaranteed that we would overheat and become disconnected. There was no such thing as a “discussion” because differing views automatically made us adversaries and if I become an adversary with anyone, I play to win. This is not a winning strategy for making friends and influencing people.

For her part, Arwyn had her own way of winning a fighting which was almost a form of emotional jujutso. To wit:

Jujutsu evolved among the samurai of feudal Japan as a method for dispatching an armed and armored opponent in situations where the use of weapons was impractical or forbidden.

My emotional fusion made me an easy target for this sort of thing. While I was using my intellect, she was using my own heart against me.

We talked about the whole business of marital sadism. I have a sadistic streak so wide, it’s pretty pointless denying it. Arwyn heartily agreed with that. But the real revelation to her was when I talked about my struggle in dealing with her sadistic side. And that opened the big can of worms that you have all been waiting for.

I told her that based on Passionate Marriage I had figured out that early part of our relationship that was so vexing to me. Namely that we were having sex all the time and then after we were married, sex had dwindled to pretty much nothing. The reason for that early sex wasn’t desire, but it was insecurity. Arwyn and I share very rich, deep wells of the fear of abandonment. Her sexual behavior was her attempt to avoid that whole abandonment scenario, and so it was all fueled by her insecurities. She would have sex even though many times she didn’t want to because insecurity reigned. However, she was also feeling guilt and shame over our premarital sexual behavior. By the time we actually got married, the shame and guilt had grown to a point where it overcame her insecurity about our relationship. Once the commitment of marriage was finalized, that insecurity disappeared but the guilt did not.

On top of this, we can add a generous dose of resentment. I was pretty much in total reptilian mode in the early years of our marriage. I really liked sex, and my self worth was totally tied to it. If we had enough sex, I felt loved. When I didn’t, I felt rejected and unloved. Arwyn’s self-worth was also tied to sex. But the more sex we had that she didn’t want, the more she felt used. She felt that in my view, sex was the answer to all our problems. She was pretty much right. She resented me for my controlling ways and then wanting sex on top of that. At the same time, her guilt increased because now I’m really making her feel like the bad wife.

And then we tried to fix each other. A classic example of this is the 3rd year of our marriage, Arwyn bought Relationship Rescue. She went through about 4 chapters and then didn’t read anymore but did leave the book lying around thinking I really needed to read it. I did glance over it back then and thought it wasn’t too bad of a book for her. Two years later, I picked it up off a dusty shelf and then went through every single exercise. When I came to her at the appropriate time and attempted to follow Dr. Phil’s advice, she really wanted nothing to do with it. A few months later, I bought her the workbook for her birthday. That workbook has never been opened. To say she regretted buying that book is an understatement! She bought it with the idea of changing me, but when I did do it, she resisted it! Because it was another case of me controlling her, she wanted none of it.

A major part of this discussion involved our differing ways of getting to this point. Arwyn does better as part of a group-type structured process where I am able to get stuff from a book and learn independently. I went through Dr. Phil’s book alone. I was able to exercise and diet and lose weight without weekly meetings. I was able to discover and apply vital things from Passionate Marriage without a therapist or a support group — apart from my blogger friends, of course! I play with computers with very little in the way of classwork. I even play around a bit in Linux just getting things off the internet. But this is not at all typical, which is what makes me exceptional as a teacher. It’s what makes XH able to do much of what he does. But it also results in some problems relating to others who are not on the same page. I get exasperated at others for being too slow. Arwyn seemed to always be too slow and she didn’t appreciate me reminding her of it. Her going and finding her own group of friends in a different church through a 12 step group seems to be just what was needed for her to work on herself. And she has been doing it with the help of the group and her sponsor. It was helpful having my own background in 12 step groups because much of what Schnarch talks about translates fairly easily into 12-step-ese. I was able to share what I had learned from reading this book pretty much what I shared here. Writing has been another vital part of processing what I’ve learned and I’m getting better at harnessing that in order to internalize and retain it.

I shared with her my revelation about her own sadism in watching me suffer all of these years in virtual sexlessness, knowing perfectly well that I was suffering. She stood by and watched and participated in it while doing nothing or even rejecting my efforts to resolve it. I treaded carefully here, because I knew this was extremely sensitive territory we were in. Almost every previous discussion of sex has resulted in her and I both getting defensive and her totally melting down. But she did not meltdown at all. She took the hit and held it together. That was truly an amazing thing to witness.

Then we got to some nitty gritty. Basically, for pretty much our whole marriage, the sex has been awful. I did point out that she might have been ahead of me in that department for not wanting bad sex, while I was willing to ask for a double portion of it. She pretty much agreed with my assessment: it’s not that she did not like sex. She did not want it from me. It took me all this time to really figure it out to a point where I could deal with it and handle that without falling apart.

This is what emotional gridlock and critical mass does for a marriage. It makes emotional fusion such a totally untenable position that we are forced to move away from it and grow like a hermit crab that outgrows its shell and has to shed it to go find a new one. We were both ready to listen because the alternative was too much to take.

We discovered that we were on the same page in a lot of areas. We both wanted good sex and not bad sex. We each affirmed the right of the other to avoid bad sex and go for good sex. What entails “good sex” was not discussed, however. Just getting to this point was nothing short of monumental. I told her that I wanted to pursue that with her. I think the act of choosing her was an important one, at least for me. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly done that, before. Honestly, it comes to me that I’ve accepted her, settled for her, preferred her, cared for her, tried to win her, and done other things. But I don’t know if I’ve ever truly chosen her. She asked me out the first time we went out. Schnarch did write extensively about this, and I’m going to have to look it up again as it didn’t register first time through and i didn’t write about it because it didn’t hit me.

Moving on to better sex might be a daunting challenge, but I think she might be up for at least approaching the challenge of it. She seemed to be very open to it last night at least. No we did not have sex. By the time we concluded, it was already 1:30 a.m. and we both had to get up early and I was tired before we started the conversation. But we were snuggled together and touching and holding hands and it really was probably more intimacy than we had shared at any other time. Hence the proposed title “This is the most significant conversation we’ve ever had” which is a statement Arwyn made.

We concluded by deciding that we would avoid more positively. Namely that we were going to avoid avoiding these sorts of conversations in the future!

D.


Busting Loose

January 24, 2008

Breakthrough

Watershed

Finally!

A New Beginning

“This is the most significant conversation we’ve ever had.”

These are all working titles for the post that I’m working on, which details the conversation that Arwyn and I had last night.

In my last entry, I detailed how I thought we had entered a stage of critical mass. But the next few days, I began to wonder a bit. All the signs were there. We were not sniping. The oscillations had stopped. The criticism was barely even there. The entire marriage had quieted to a point where it seemed too quiet. I was wavering and buckling, because I could not see where we were headed. It looked like we were stuck and frozen in a place that seemed to be even beyond gridlock. But I continued to work on this just a bit, especially the “hugging until relaxed” exercise. Subsequent applications of this were more successful than my initial efforts. Eyes open kissing was something I also tried but as that got better, I would always get to a point where I would close my eyes because I wanted to better feel the growing connection. But we weren’t going anywhere.  Not backwards or forwards.  I could feel a tectonic shift taking place.  We were, indeed, at critical mass.

Last night, the gridlock finally busted loose.

 D.

 


Critical Mass

January 20, 2008

It’s really interesting now, reading other relationship blogs and seeing where they are in this growth process.  And then looking and seeing where I am and comparing.  Most are in a state of gridlock of some sort where there is a high desire partner wondering how long they are going to have to wait until the low desire partner decides to fly right.  There’s a lot of pressure put upon the low desire partner to pony up and show up.  But it’s only been in the last 50 or so years where this has been true in western culture as previous generations saw it differently.  It was the high desire partner who had the libido problem and people looked for ways to lower their desire. 

 

How times have changed.

 

The thing is, is that a partner who occupies the high desire in one area (sex) may occupy the lower desire in another area, like food, shopping, eating out, spending money or traveling.  I often use shopping because this is an area where Arwyn and I occupy opposite sides of the desire spectrum compared to sex.  She’d rather savor the experience of going to stores and looking at stuff where I’d pretty much like to get it all over with as soon as possible or do it online.  It’s difficult for me to find passion for all the time and resources involved in shopping as there are other things I’d rather do.

 

Couples facing these issues have a choice as to what they do.  They can ignore it, confront it or grow.  Like shopping, sex isn’t something you can really ignore and avoid.  You either do it or you don’t.  I try not to, so Arwyn come up with ways to get me to do it using all the tools of the trade.  Manipulation, guilt and anger are all tools she uses to get me to go.  And often it turns into a crappy experience because of the resentment I bring along with me.  I don’t respond to pressure much better than she does.  

 

Confrontation and communication are not going to increase my desire in this area very much.  One of the myths we carry around as a society is that all we have to do is communicate better and more often.  But confrontation and communication involves trying to change our partner.  This is why communication-based therapies fail.  What we communicate ends up being criticism and contempt and that will get us no where.

 

The answer is personal transformation and growth.  And that happens on the heels of reaching critical mass.

 

Critical mass happens when things finally come to a head, putting one partner into the crucible thus dragging the other in, too.  While the low desire partner controls the supply of whatever is desired, the high desire partner has control over if and when a couple enters the growth cycle.

 

Arwyn and I are definitely in the critical mass stage.  You know when you’re there because the overall climate of the marriage changes.  Previous encounters that involved sniping, resentment and criticism cease.  The marriage actually settles down as “business as usual” does not continue.  One partner begins to differentiate and the other senses it.  Empathy and respect actually increase as anger and criticism decrease.  Instead of roiling conflict, the tone quiets down.  There is more straight talking.

 

Not a lot of that last for us, but we are in a spot where it is now possible from an emotional stand point.  We’re each standing on more solid ground instead of leaning in and smothering or trying to dominate each other.  The whole power play/control atmosphere has just collapsed.

 

This critical mass stage just happens to coincide with me reading this chapter and this book in general.  I’m not trying to change Arwyn, I’m changing me and she is making her own adjustment.  And it’s not for the worse.

 

This might be where Arwyn departs from 2Am‘s wife and where we take a bit different path.  2am‘s wife reacted to his differentiation by trying to emotionally bludgeon him back into fusion.  She did not seem interested in growth but wanted to keep things the same.  Any concessions she made involved little cosmetic things that did not involve any real or lasting change in her own behaviors or attitudes.  He quieted and became resolved but it’s difficult to see where she ever did.  She continued to hang on to taking inventory of his faults without looking at her own.

 

Arwyn, on the other hand has been taking her own inventory, literally.  She’s doing a second year in her 12 step study at church and my reading Schnarch’s book coincides with her working on step 4.  She’s talked a bit about doing it but hasn’t shared a lot about it.  She knows I’ve been reading this book but hasn’t talked about it.  Neither of us is pressuring the other to be or conform to anything.

 

But we’ve both been infinitely more relaxed.  The hugging has picked up and it is a more intimate and affectionate even.  It is a longer, more lingering event.  There are kisses during the hugs that are not met with a grimace but are welcome.  It’s difficult to describe but it just started to happen when I quit feeling entitled to anything other than my own thoughts and feelings.  I’m not trying to change her as much as I try to better appreciate the person that she is.  What also helps is that I see that she is sincerely making an effort to grow.  It’s not in a way or direction I would choose, but she is making an honest effort of it.  I’m trying to support and affirm that while not being all up in her business.  It inspires me to keep going on my own.

 

So I’m cautiously hopeful that we’re working to a better place.

 

D.

  


Tools for getting through it

January 20, 2008

 

01/13/2008

 

This is one long-ass book!

 

Finally, in chapter 12, Schnarch reveals so tools for getting through the crucible.  I’m not going to retype them all or even give a reaction to them.  He goes into different levels of differentiation as well as how to self-soothe.

 

It’s this chapter that has the hiking story that Val commented on earlier.  He does go a long way to be as fair as possible in describing how his wife being slower caused him problems with dealing with himself.  He also shares the story of how his wife’s and his move to Colorado put them on the brink of divorce!  He then goes into why he included those stories.

 

The tips and techniques are helpful and I suppose the reason he didn’t include those earlier on was because he was keen on someone reading most of the book before trying them.  Still, I’m convinced this thing is put together backwards..

 


The Two Choice Dilemma, Marital Sadism and the Mercy Fuck

January 13, 2008

Some of you will love this and some of you won’t.  This is the part where we finally weigh in on the cost of being an avoider.

 

Basically in life we tend to not like making the hard choices.  We like making choices where it is win-win.  The lose-lose propositions require a certain amount of pain.  So we avoid making those choices, hoping that a more favorable option eventually comes around.  Sometimes it does.  But in the area of sexual disparity, it mostly won’t, at least without making a choice.

 

To quote Schnarch:

 

“Pop psychology tells us what we want to hear: you should expect your partner to accept, understand and validate your position even if he doesn’t agree– he should even say you make sense!  That strategy works as long as there’s enough room for everyone to have his or her own feelings and act upon them.  But many marital therapy approaches don’t work in the bedroom because they try to avoid two-choice dilemmas.  We can agree to disagree as long as we are focused on feelings and perceptions.  When the issue is behavior, however, flexibility is reduced significantly.  You can’t agree to disagree about sex.  When your spouse says he or she is never doing a sexual behavior– or never having sex again– you don’t feel like saying, “Thanks for sharing!”

 

When we say we have no choice, what we’re really saying is that there is no choice we want.  There is always a choice, but it is often a choice that we don’t want.  What we really want to do is make a choice that suits us at the expense of the other person.  Some people think monogamy is a great thing…for the other person.  The choice to not have sex is based on the assumption that the other person will not exercise their choice to have sex.

 

In the ’60’s and ’70’s it was popular to say that it was unrealistic to expect one person to meet all of your needs.  The have-it-all saying was based on avoiding the 2 choice dilemma.  In fact, that’s at the crux of the “Have-it-all” mentality.  It pretty much avoids the whole reality of making hard choices and the economic reality of the principle of scarcity.

 

So we have this couple who we can call Digger and Arwyn.  Schnarch names them Audrey and Peter.  Arwyn seems to care less about sex while Digger is frustrated at the lack of sex. 

 

Arwyn’s gambit is based on the idea that she can not have sex because there is too much pressure.  She says that if there wasn’t so much pressure, she might be more open to sex.  Plus, with Digger initiating she never has a chance to initiate.  So Digger agrees not to initiate and thus not to pressure Arwyn.  So a week goes by and Arwyn does not initiate because then she would simply be responding to the pressure of the agreement.  Another week goes by and she does not initiate.  As time passes, Digger’s frustration grows and Arwyn knows it but does not initiate because she is feeling pressured by her own thoughts of having to do what she does not want to do.  She doesn’t want to want Digger while she does want him to want her.  New “if only’s” surface as she continues to try to hold out just enough hope to keep the marriage intact.  She may even try to improve in other areas in order to compensate for this one marital lack.

 

So where does that leave Digger?  Anything he possibly does will increase pressure.  Damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.  So now he faces a 2 choice dilemma.  No sex or force growth through making a choice whether or not to have sex.

 

2amsomewhere referred to this a bit earlier in a comment about those bloggers who choose to have affairs.  They essentially take the choice away from their partner while trying to have their cake and eat it too.  Two choice dilemmas are a pathway to growth and an affair essentially robs themselves of that opportunity as well as that of their partner.

 

So I get that I’ve helped enable this sad state of affairs in perpetuating a sexless marriage.  Arwyn holds all the cards, sexually speaking.  What little sex we’ve had over the past few years has been not so good so I’m not really wanting it too badly from her at the moment.  I’d like to be in a monogamous sexually-fulfilling marriage but it remains to be seen whether I’m willing to pay the freight in order to get there. 

 

The scenario described in chapter 11 perfectly matches where I’m at with Arwyn more or less.  It’s irritating that I had to read through so many other chapters to get here, but here I am. 

 

What really drove me mad getting to this chapter was the section on marital sadism.  I know I have a very thick red line of sadism running through me.  A very bad nastiness that has nothing to do with the good nastiness of sex.  It’s in all of us and it occurs in pretty much every marriage.  Deep down, in our heart of hearts we hate our spouse.  That bit was hard to grapple with as I read it, but the realization of it lead me right into that old saying: the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is apathy.  Hate seems like maybe we’re putting it more strongly than it really is, but our squeamishness about that is a result of some false beliefs.  Namely we think that love and hate can not coexist.  Where hate is, love can not be and where love is, hate must be absent.  This belief leads us into denial which pretty much guarantees that we’re going to behave worse towards our chosen spouse.  The fact is, hate exists in the world of love and love exists in the world of hate.  We have to confront that evil nasty side before we can move on.  The whole idea behind the reflected sense of self is so that other people won’t make a fuss about the nastiness we have inside of us.  We want to be loved by others so that we can love ourselves.  By focusing on how great we are (through listening to what our itching ears want to hear) we can deny our evil nasty side.

 

Differentiation comes from confronting our evil side and truly repenting.  That’s my take, not Schnarch’s but this is a dot that he left to be connected.  We get all self-righteous and inflict cruelty on others to justify ourselves.  We elevate ourselves by depressing others which isn’t exactly a recipe for self-respect.  On the other side, we constantly compromise our integrity by accepting the bullshit of others.  The perpetrator/victim mentality has gotten me no where. 

 

In this section we encounter the mercy fuck and the mind fuck.  I’m willing to wager that most of you know exactly what I mean, at least if you’re married.  This is not to be confused with the pity fuck that Chelsea Summers wrote about recently. 

 

The mercy fuck is the penultimate of marital sadism.  Basically the mercy fucker says, “Okay, I don’t want to have sex with you but I’m going to allow you to mount me and I’ll do the minimum to get you off.  You’d bloody well better appreciate it, too!”

 

This is followed by the mind fuck, where the mercy fucker doesn’t respect the fuckee because he is so willing to accept such poor sex.  “See?  This only proves that all you want is to use my body!” when that is all that is ever offered.

 

The person who is offered the mercy fuck is basically given a choice between sex even a hooker would be ashamed of giving or no sex at all.  The only real way of dealing with the mercy fucker is to stop doing it.

 

Then we have the woman who fakes orgasms and then resents her husband for feeling so good about the job he’s doing.  That’s a mind fuck.  “Yes dear” is a mind fuck because we all know that it means “Yes, but don’t complain if it’s not done with enthusiasm.”

 

Basically, marital sadism allows partners to screw each other two ways at once.  Lousy oral sex technique while feigning ignorance and other passive-aggressive war mongering techniques are all part of “normal” marital sadism.

 

We hate our partners, but that is a reflection of how much we loathe ourselves.  We need to deal with our self loathing in order to get along with each other.  We need to confront our hate and deal with it.  Notice I’m not saying make it go away, I’m saying deal.  Stop blaming and start standing.

 

What that means for Arwyn and I remains to be seen.  But I’m digesting this and thinking about it.  I’m sure you all might have something to add to this discussion in the way of experiences.  You can read pretty big chunks of that chapter here, if you want.

 

D.